Starbucks' Red Cups and the Internet Outrage Machine

Image via Starbucks / RNS

When it comes to outrage, the Internet abhors a vacuum.

The latest missives in the continuing culture wars have come from different sides of Christianity over, of all things, the new design of the Starbucks red cup. This year’s rollout saw a plain red cup, rather than the decorated cups of Christmas past, and one guy got mad.

Joshua Feuerstein is an “American evangelist, Internet and social media personality.” He used to be a pastor, but has had some success now as a maker of YouTube videos, which put his raspy voice and confrontational manner to good use.

A few days ago, Feuerstein went to a local Starbucks wearing his Jesus shirt and carrying a gun (because Starbucks hates the Second Amendment, he claimed). He told some unwitting barista that his name was “Merry Christmas,” so that they would have to write that Christian message on his cup, and then uploaded a video to Facebook encouraging his followers to do the same: “I think in the age of political correctness we’ve become so open-minded our brains have literally fallen out of our head,” he said. 

The Year of Outrage

Chalk illustration of a megaphone. Image courtesy Palau/shutterstock.com

Chalk illustration of a megaphone. Image courtesy Palau/shutterstock.com

Optimism tends to accompany a new year. But we leave 2014 somewhat broken and disappointed. The online magazine Slate has christened 2014 “The Year of Outrage.” I bet the name sticks. Slate’s snappy multi-media calendar links the most outrageous news story for every day of the past year. What was so outrageous, and who found themselves offended?

January 29: “XOJane publishes an essay about a white person seeing a black person in yoga and feeling uncomfortable about it.” (Race provided a major source of outrage in 2014.)

According to Slate: ”Who was outraged: black women, nonracist yoga practitioners.”

November 6: “A mom finds mold in a Capri Sun juice pack.”

“Who was outraged: people who don’t think mold should be in juice.”

Slate pumped up the project with eleven essays on outrage. Topics ranged from “The Life Cycle of Outrage” to the twins “The Year in Liberal Outrage” and “The Year in Conservative Outrage.” I don’t know about you, but I think Slate basically named our collective mood as we enter 2015.

Outrage may emerge from petty things: “An Irish cafe bans loud Americans” (July 22). It seems to me, though, that we live in a society intensely marked by outrage. What is one to say in the face of ISIS and its blood lust? Outrage divides us. Do we find ourselves more inclined to outrage that in Ferguson, Missouri an unarmed black youth died from at least six gun — or do we find it more offensive that crowds would protest the death of a young man who may have attacked a police officer?

I know one thing: my social media feeds provide no help. They stream with the outrage of people I love, people I know, and newsmakers I follow.

Here’s the deal: our outrage grows from our most vulnerable places, our basic fear that things are not as they should be. Something is wrong with our world, and in a fundamental way we don’t know how to fix it. Faced with moral and social disorder, the deep evolutionary structure of our brains prepares us to fight: outrage! We may think we’re angry because we’re right — and someone else is so, so wrong. We’re really angry because we’re disappointed.

The opening verses of John’s Gospel confront us with a combination of things that ordinarily don’t belong together. Readers universally appreciate how this prologue applies to Jesus some of the Bible’s most high-flying, most spiritual language (1:1-18). But hints of discord also haunt this most exalted passage.


Kicking the Outrage Habit in the Blogosphere

Women outraged looking at a computer screen, VanHart / Shutterstock.com

Women outraged looking at a computer screen, VanHart / Shutterstock.com

“All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits,” wrote the psychologist William James.

I think that may be as true online as it is in real life. We tend to do things in a fairly regular pattern; log onto email first, check the news, browse social media, read blogs, get outraged.

Yes: outraged.

Some days I am amazed at how much potent vitriol gets spewed all over the Internet. (Other days I’m just used to it.)

One of the strangest of online habits may be when people repeatedly get upset with the same bloggers and websites, and exclaim their feelings in the comments section and on social media. It’s as if they are going into McDonald’s every day and complaining about all the fast food that’s in there.

The upside of websites you find horrible is that you don’t have to read them.

This Valentine's Day, Do You Know Where Your Chocolate Comes From?

Yesterday I received my email copy of ePistle, Evangelicals for Social Action’s weekly electronic communication. This article discussing the situation in the Ivory Coast and the former president Laurent Gbagbo immediately caught my attention:

“The Ivory Coast is on the brink of civil war, and chocolate companies could play a critical role in saving lives and bringing peace.